GMO contaminated rice slips into Philippines again

Greenpeace slams DA for ignoring warnings on US rice shipments

Feature story - April 24, 2008
Greenpeace today revealed that despite their repeated warnings, two GMO-contaminated rice varieties have slipped into the Philippines once again. Greenpeace commissioned tests have detected the presence of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in two imported US long grain rice brands, Blue Ribbon Texas Long Grain and Riceland Arkansas Long Grain that are being sold in S&R Supermarkets in the capital.

A Greenpeace volunteer displays packs of NFA-distributed US rice which Greenpeace believes to be a GMO risk, beside sacks of US long grain rice sold in S&R Supermarkets in Manila which have been confirmed by laboratory tests to contain genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), in a press conference today in Quezon City. GMOs are products of genetic engineering in which certain traits of one organism are randomly inserted into an entirely different species. GMOs threaten biodiversity, food security, farmers' livelihoods, and consumer health. Greenpeace is demanding that the government protect the country’s staple from unsafe and unproven GMO technologies.

Texas and Arkansas US long grain varieties are among the rice supplies identified by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in August 2006 to have been massively tainted by the experimental GMO rice strain LL601 produced by Bayer.  Blue Ribbon rice samples tested positive for LL601 contamination, but the exact GMO strain in Riceland is yet to be determined.  Both suspect US rice varieties were able to enter the Philippines apparently undetected and unregulated by the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA).

"Last February, Greenpeace exposed how a 44,000 metric ton shipment of US long grain rice is also a GMO risk.  We challenged the DA, through the National Food Authority (NFA), to conduct further and more stringent tests on the rice to ensure its safety.  The NFA should have had ample time to run stringent tests on the rice before it was distributed. Unfortunately, their neglect has foisted rice, whose safety is still questionable, on an unsuspecting population," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Genetic Engineering Campaigner Daniel Ocampo.

"This is the second time Greenpeace has discovered illegal GMO rice in the country. And, as usual, the DA was unable to detect its entry into our rice supply.  Clearly, the government is completely useless in enforcing its own GMO regulations, instituted to protect the welfare of consumers and the environment.  Moreover, the lax attitude toward these unsafe, experimental crops betrays the DA's pro-GMO bias, which, unless rectified, would ultimately endanger Filipino consumers and farmers," he added.

The NFA started distributing the US long grain rice last Saturday at Php 25.00 per kilogram.  Greenpeace believes that the stock may be among those affected by the massive US GMO long grain rice contamination scandals since 2006.  The contamination has so far cost the US rice industry billions of dollars in losses.(1)

"Greenpeace is unrelenting in our demand that the country's rice supply be protected from unsafe and unproven GMO technologies.  The ongoing rice crisis should not be used as an excuse to neglect our existing regulations governing GMOs, especially since there are other sources of GMO-free rice.  GMOs threaten biodiversity, food security, farmers' livelihoods, and consumer health," said Ocampo.  "The DA should come clean and plainly state that their commitment to protect the integrity of our rice supply is also a commitment to keep rice GMO-free."

Note: (1)The GMO Bayer LL601, responsible for the contamination, was an experimental variety whose research was abandoned in 2001 and which was never commercialized for undisclosed reasons. Since 2006, this experimental variety was found in at least 30 countries, many of which, including the EU, Russia, Japan, and the Philippines have responded with import restrictions. The said GMO rice strain has never been completely eradicated from US rice supplies, and remains to this day. In fact, from 2006 to 2008, 23 shipments of US rice to Europe, certified GMO-free by US labs, were rejected by the importing countries after European tests confirmed GMO content.

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